Title tainted for England
March 19, 2011
England's Nick Easter lifts the RBS Six Nations trophy © Getty Images
England found little solace in being crowned Six Nations champions after seeing their Grand Slam bid wrecked at the final hurdle.
Martin Johnson's young team were thumped 24-8 by an Ireland side who ran riot in Dublin. But Wales' 28-9 defeat to France in Paris confirmed England had won the title for the first time since Johnson was captain eight years ago.
England were presented with the trophy at a reception in Dublin but fly-half Toby Flood said: "You go into every competition to try and win it and we are in a better position than we have been in recent years. But it is a huge disappointment we weren't able to finish it off - and we weren't even close to doing it. They hammered us."
Tommy Bowe and Brian O'Driscoll ran in tries while Jonathan Sexton finished with the Man-of-the-Match award following a magnificent display at fly-half, topped by a 14-point haul.
England flanker James Haskell said: "I am bitterly disappointed. You play four games and then lose the last one. Whatever happens about the title it takes the edge off eight weeks of hard work. We were our own worst enemies today. If you shoot yourself in the foot every play it makes it 10 times worse."
Johnson admitted England would have to "wear the scar" of their performance but he was proud of the strides his young team have taken over the last 12 months.
"I feel pretty proud of them and I said that to them, even with today's performance," he said. "It is a heck of an achievement considering how many young players we have got and it is the first Championship for many of them.
"The players are Six Nations champions and they are disappointed which is even better. It is a fantastic launch pad as we head towards the World Cup. It is a fantastic achievement to win the Championship. We obviously feel flat tonight but we will look back on this campaign as a success.
"It is very hard to win this tournament as it is a hard, attritional competition. They have worked incredibly hard all the way through and it's great to see them get some reward with this Championship.
"My motivation is to do a good job for English rugby and make it what it can be. We should be a team that can compete with anyone in the world - that's what the goal is and we are getting closer to it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales
The two leading contenders for the best modern open-side flanker go head to head in Paris on Saturday. John Taylor assesses the tale of the tape